ROME — Politics has no monopoly on making strange bedfellows, as a senior Vatican official paid tribute to Hollywood on Thursday for raising the profile of family issues, specifically citing the American sitcom “Modern Family,” a show that features two married gay men who adopt a baby, plus an older divorced dad who remarries a woman half his age.
Along with writings of Pope Francis and other Vatican initiatives, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia told the United Nations on Thursday that thanks to “phenomena like the media production ‘Modern Family,’ or same-sex marriage initiatives in a significant number of jurisdictions, the family has become the subject of increasingly intense interest and discussion.”
Paglia is head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the office organizing a “World Meeting of Families” in Philadelphia in September that Pope Francis is scheduled to attend.
Unfortunately, Paglia said during an event to mark the UN’s annual “Day of the Family,” discussion about the family has become “unproductively ideological.” It centers too much on definitions of the family unacceptable to one political current or another, and on economic considerations.
“It is important to realize that the family is not an ideology,” Paglia said.
Instead, he said, family is a complex of human relationships characterized by love, fidelity, commitment, sacrifice, trust, conflict, joy, fruitfulness, nurture, respect, celebration, protection, memory and faith.
The archbishop called for recognition of the negative effect that the breakdown of families has on global initiatives such as the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals,” a set of development benchmarks that 195 countries will sign in September.
Pope Francis will open that session of the UN General Assembly on September 25, during a visit to the United States.
“Not everything in every family is rosy,” Paglia said. “There’s violence, abuse, paternalistic excess. There are families with absent or irresponsible fathers.”
He also said that women being left to provide for their children through paid work and unpaid care are a clear example of gender inequality.
Paglia also said the family the Church has in mind is one in which “the relationship between genders is reworked with full respect for masculinity and femininity,” where the bond between generations is cultivated, and where the education of children respects their individuality.
“Clearly, what the Catholic Church is striving for is a new, more authentic flourishing of the family, and with it all of society,” he said.
Paglia said the church is so convinced that Pope Francis has convoked two summits of bishops from around the world, called “synods,” to discuss the family. One took place last October, and the second will take place during the same month this year.